In an address to the press, the newly appointed Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo set up an agenda he hopes to strictly adhere to. Top of the list will be the establishment of regional centers for the Court of Appeal so that appeal cases can be swiftly disposed of in a bid to avoid case backlog and ensure swift administration of justice.
Justice Owiny-Dollo, who was last week appointed by President Yoweri Museveni to replace the now-retired Bart Simpson Katureebe set the target while speaking to journalists at Parliament after interfacing with the Appointments Committee yesterday.
Justice Owiny-Dollo promised the Appointments Committee that he would ensure to bring down years of case backlog, he also told journalists that his plan for regional Court of Appeal centers will depend on the President appointing more judges.
“If I had the necessary number of judges, even the Court of Appeal would sit in Mbale, Gulu, Mbarara, and Fort Portal so that there are regional centers for the Court of Appeal. You lose your case in the High Court; you are in the Court of Appeal,” he said.
He revealed that during his tenure, the Judiciary will have to study the growing population of the country which is projected at around 45m people so as to get a clear picture of how many judicial officers are needed to ensure there is no backlog.
“For me, the Court of Appeal needs a minimum of 30 justices. Now we have a minimum of 13 justices. So when you file your case in the Court of Appeal, it will be heard after four years; not that the justices are busy,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said.
The former Deputy Chief Justice, who led the hearing of the presidential age limit case in Mbale and dismissed it, also gave his opinion on the age at which the judicial officers should retire.
In Uganda, the retirement age for the Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal is 70 whereas the judges of the High Court retire at 65. But Justice Owiny-Dollo said this provision benefits other countries.
“We retire our High Court Judges at 65 years and immediately we retire them, other countries pick them for the next five years plus. So what is the point of bringing up your best and then handing him or her over to another person?” he said.
“My personal view is that magistrates should retire at 65 years, judges from the High Court should retire at 70 years and appended judges should retire at 75. This is my personal view and I have justification for that,” he added.
Uganda, according to the incoming Chief Justice, has only about 300 magistrates at all levels, which makes it difficult for the 80 chief magisterial areas in the whole country to be covered by only 40 chief magistrates. The former Deputy Chief Justice, who led the hearing of the presidential age limit case in Mbale and dismissed it, also gave his opinion on the age at which the judicial officers should retire.